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Armenian Coalition Partners Pledge ‘Civilized’ Election Competition


Armenia -- President Serzh Sarkisian (C), Orinats Yerkir Party leader Artur Baghdasarian (R) and Prosperous Armenia Party leader Gagik Tsarukian sign a new coalition agreement, 17Feb2011.

Armenia -- President Serzh Sarkisian (C), Orinats Yerkir Party leader Artur Baghdasarian (R) and Prosperous Armenia Party leader Gagik Tsarukian sign a new coalition agreement, 17Feb2011.

President Serzh Sarkisian and his junior partners in the governing coalition reportedly pledged on Monday not to undermine each other’s political parties in the run-up to Armenia’s upcoming parliamentary elections.

Sarkisian, Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) leader Gagik Tsarukian and Orinats Yerkir Party leader Artur Baghdasarian met for a second time in two weeks to discuss their participation in the elections.

Eduard Sharmazanov, a deputy parliament speaker and the chief spokesman for Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that they agreed to contest the vote in an “atmosphere of mutual tolerance” and make sure that there is only “civilized competition” among the three parties. “On the strategic issues connected with the election conduct, the coalition is consolidated around President Sarkisian,” he said.

The three men held similar consultations on January 30 amid lingering tensions between the HHK and the BHK. Those tensions rose last week after BHK lawmakers blocked the passage of a government bill in parliament and provoked strong criticism from senior HHK figures. Tsarukian’s party responded by boycotting a parliament session last Tuesday in protest.

Sharmazanov denied any connection between the BHK boycott and the meeting held in the presidential palace in Yerevan. “Tolerance doesn’t just apply to the Republicans and Prosperous Armenia,” he said. “Tolerance applies to all political forces and the three coalition forces in the first instance.”

Khachik Galtsian, a spokesman for Tsarukian, made a similar point. “The coalition partners are cooperating in a normal and sound manner at the moment,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.

“The three coalition forces must do everything to ensure that the electoral struggle takes place in an atmosphere of political tolerance,” added Sharmazanov. “We expect the same tolerance from the [opposition] HAK and Zharangutyun and Free Democrats and Dashnaktsutyun. And they have the right to expect the same from us.”

The opposition forces say the HHK itself holds the key to political stability during the election period. They have challenged the Armenian authorities to prove their declared commitment to free elections by enacting major amendments to electoral legislation. The presidential parliament has rejected the opposition calls.

Sarkisian, Tsarukian and Baghdasarian already pledged not to undercut each other in a joint declaration issued in February last year. The declaration also committed the BHK and Orinats Yerkir to supporting Sarkisian in the 2013 presidential election. Tsarukian pointedly declined to reaffirm that commitment in the following months.
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